Top drafted goaltenders in the WHL

By Glen Erickson

For purposes of this list, we used the criteria whereby we ranked only NHL drafted or signed goalies currently playing in the WHL.

1. Darcy Kuemper, Red Deer Rebels (MIN)
2. Tyler Bunz, Medicine Hat Tigers (EDM)
3. Thomas Heemskerk, Moose Jaw Warriors (SJ)
4. Kent Simpson, Everett Silvertips (CHI)
5. Calvin Pickard, Seattle Thunderbirds (COL)
6. MacMillian Carruth, Portland Winterhawks (CHI)
7. Adam Morrison, Saskatoon Blades (PHI)
8. Brandon Anderson, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WAS)

1. Darcy Kuemper, Red Deer Rebels (MIN)
Featured earlier this season in a HF Podcast, Kuemper has backstopped the Rebels to their most successful regular season in almost a decade. Red Deer continues to nip at the heels of the front-running Saskatoon Blades in the eastern conference standings.

The 20-year-old native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan leads the WHL in most of the key goaltending statistical categories. In 54 appearances so far, his 1.89 goals against average is far and away the best in the league, with Tyler Bunz of the Medicine Hat Tigers next at 2.53. Kuemper has allowed 101 goals on 1,586 shots and carries a sparkling .932 save percentage into the final two weeks of the regular season schedule. He has compiled at 39-11-2-2 record.

Selected in the 6th round, 161st overall, at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild, the 6’5, 205-pounder has posted 11 shutouts this season. He will follow in the footsteps of two former WHLers as he embarks on a professional career as both Josh Harding (Regina Pats) and Anton Khudobin (Saskatoon Blades) are figuring prominently in the Wild’s system. Kuemper’s former teammate in Red Deer, James Reimer, is also developing quickly these days with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

2. Tyler Bunz, Medicine Hat Tigers (EDM)
Another veteran WHL goaltender featured in a HF Podcast this season, Bunz has handled the bulk of work in Medicine Hat this season. The St. Albert, Alberta native is 19 years of age, and given the success of 20-year-old netminders in the WHL this season, Bunz could very well find himself playing a leadership role with the Tigers next season.

Selected by Edmonton in the 5th round, 121st overall, at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Bunz will battle for a professional job with another highly touted Oilers prospect, QMJHL keeper Olivier Roy. Bunz gave a very good account of his skills at the 2010 Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, and has continued with solid, consistent play in the WHL this season.

In 49 appearances, Bunz has compiled a record of 30-12-4-3, his second year in a row with at least 30 wins. His 2.53 goals against average and .918 save percentage are second only to Kuemper.


3. Thomas Heemskerk, Moose Jaw Warriors (SJ)

Another of the WHL’s outstanding 20-year-old goalies, Heemskerk has given the Warriors a solid, veteran presence between the pipes this season. A workhorse, Heemskerk has appeared in 57 of the Warriors 62 games this season after being acquired during the off-season.

Heemskerk, from Chilliwack, B.C., appeared in 45 games with the Kootenay Ice before leaving hockey all together for much of the 2008-2009 season. When he returned, surfacing in Everett, he appeared rejuvenated and played well enough to earn a free agent look from the San Jose Sharks.

While the Warriors are in tough as a middle-of-the-pack team in the eastern conference, they will not be taken lightly during the post-season with Heemskerk capable of stealing games. He has compiled a 31-19-2-3 record with two shutouts, a 2.91 goals against average and a save percentage of .909.

4. Kent Simpson, Everett Silvertips (CHI)
After a slow start this season, Simpson has improved his play of late as the Silvertips have begun to climb up the standings in the western conference. He has shouldered the load in Everett this season, as the ‘Tips moved veteran Thomas Heemskerk (SJ) to the Moose Jaw Warriors before the regular season began.

Simpson has posted a 2.79 goals against average and a .915 save percentage this season, after teaming up with Heemskerk last season to lead the entire WHL in both categories. Simpson, an Edmonton, Alberta native who will celebrate his 19th birthday in March, has appeared in 52 games this season.

Selected by the Blackhawks in the 2nd round, 58th overall, at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Simpson played for Team WHL in the Subway Series last November, but was unable to secure an invitation to Team Canada’s selection camp for the 2011 WJC. At 6’2 and 200 pounds, Simpson has good balance, great lateral movement and handles the puck with confidence.

5. Calvin Pickard, Seattle Thunderbirds (COL)
The current leader in total minutes played this season, Pickard has given the T-Birds a chance to win on virtually every night they’ve played over the past couple of years. However, the group up front has not been able to sustain a consistent push to elevate Seattle to a position among the western conference’s top teams.

Pickard was selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2nd round, 49th overall, at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. From Winnipeg, Manitoba, Pickard’s older brother Chet is currently toiling in the Nashville Predator’s system after a successful career in the WHL with the Tri City Americans.

Calvin Pickard has compiled a 23-29-3-5 record with a 3.39 goals against average. While not spectacular by any means, his save percentage of .916 is indicative of his importance to the Thunderbirds. He has played a league-high 3,553 minutes and faced league-high 2,392 shots.


6. Mac Carruth, Portland Winterhawks (CHI)

Hopeful that he can return shortly from an injury, Portland has seen Carruth respond well this season in the role as starter on a team with tremendous size and depth. The blue line corps ranked among the WHL’s best early on, but serious injuries to a couple of key rearguards has magnified the importance of solid goaltending in Portland.

Carruth was selected in the 7th round, 191st overall, by the Blackhawks. He is from Shorewood, Minnesota and checks in at 6’3 and 180 pounds. In 46 appearances, he has a record of 29-13-0-1, along with a goals against average of 3.04 and a save percentage of .913.

7. Adam Morrison, Saskatoon Blades (PHI)
Since the Philadelphia Flyers selected Morrison in the 3rd round, 81st overall, at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, he has failed to emerge as the bona fide starter in Saskatoon, due in part to a combination of injuries, illness, and great play in goal from teammate Steven Stanford. He has recently returned to the lineup after a bout of mononucleosis.

Morrison is from Surrey, B.C and checks in at 6’3, 190 pounds. In a somewhat limited role this season behind Stanford, Morrison has appeared in 26 games. His record is 14-7-0-2 with a 2.82 goals against average and a .902 save percentage.

8. Brandon Anderson, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WAS)
Anderson was signed by the Washington Capitals as a free agent just prior to the current WHL season. He’s from Langley, B.C.. In 50 appearances for a struggling Hurricanes team, Anderson has posted a 15-20-5-7 record with a 3.73 goals against average and a save percentage of .890. Anderson is 6’1 and 175 pounds.

Other Notables: 2011 Eligibles:
Liam Liston, Brandon Wheat Kings (18-16-0-1)
Laurent Brossoit, Edmonton Oil Kings (11-10-0-2)


Undrafted:

Nathan Lieuwen (1991; August 8) Kootenay Ice (29-13-1-2)
Drew Owsley (1991; March 15), Tri City Americans (30-14-1-1)
Steven Stanford (1990; September 10), Saskatoon Blades (34-5-0-0)
Mark Friesen (1990; June 1), Swift Current Broncos (23-32-0-1)
Lucas Gore (1990; October 22), Chilliwack Bruins (23-21-2-3)

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